by Alagi Yorro Jallow
FATOUMATTA: The story of the birth of a child who spoke on the day he was born was never a miracle but a mythical fantasy. ‘Chapacholi’ is the equivalent of the Frankenstein monster. For those who do not know, ‘Chapacholi’ was supposed to be a child born to a fictitious African couple, grew up the same day, and started to manifest wonders. The bane was that the wonders were malevolent streaks. He was even reported to have laid whips on the backs of everybody – including his parents! He was satanic.
Fatoumatta: I never knew that ‘Chapaholi’ belonged to the most unfortunate generation. He belongs to a generation that was born in crisis, weaned in a kleptocracy, and has never really known the real meaning of peace and progress. Those who arrived here between 1990 and 2016 are appropriate children of despotism. The political crises that immediately ensnared the hopes of the independent Gambia and the hugely destructive 22 years of benevolence kleptocracy took away what should be years of take-off without turbulence for your generation. ‘Chapacholi’ belongs to a generation of strugglers, scavenging for survival in the graveyard of hope. He belongs to a generation sacrificed to the gods of economic and political instability.
If your take-off was turbulent, the years that were to signal your cruising level were years when locusts invaded the farm at the point of fruition Niumi. It was during his time newspapers, and private radio stations were first closed for months and years extra-judicially by the dictator, Borom Warambabi. His generation went to school in tears, taught by very hardworking teachers who were ravaged by systemic poverty so much that their experience silently shooed some of you away from their fate in the ivory tower.
‘Chapachli’ left school with sighs, and for many, the turbulence that assailed the aircraft of lives has refused to temper fury with mercy. In Niumi, ships of life are still tossed about by the storms of personal discovery and fulfillment well beyond their capacity to tame.
Twenty-two — something years after that voyage commenced, the ships are still troubled on the high seas of life. And for some of them, life goes on; they live it as it presents itself.
But if ‘Chapacholi’ is a generation of sufferers and sterner strugglers, the ones that followed him is more unfortunate. For him, nothing seems to have worked or be working.
‘Chapacholi’ is post-sanity generations of Gambians for whom the country is one expansive, expensive sanatorium. In his world of the deprived, the chief priest feeds fat feigning treatment for the orphaned inmates. Just like the village repairer of sanity, the patients are ready hands for unremunerated labor. Here, and for these generations of the afflicted, labor laws, relations and responsibilities are inverted. Here, the laborer’s pay the owners of the farm they work on. And they don’t know, or maybe they do but are powerless to do anything. Or they are merely afraid of losing their chains and the crumbs that drop with the clanging of their fetters. Their cares are like prison warders who take prisoners to work on farms of the powerful. That is the present-day Gambia where the lords of the fleas are talking about a national talk, and I ask: national conference of who and of what?
In the Niumi republic, democracy is the story of ‘Chapacholi,’ the Problem Child. At birth, ‘Chapacholi’ hit the ground running. He gave himself the first bath, named himself to the consternation of elders. What could they do when a spirit was talking? ‘Chapacholi’ snowballed into being the terror of the village, tormented all who did not quickly get the sense of avoiding his path and his father’s house. Soon, there was no visitor again to beat; no elder to assault. He turned his evil attention to his parents and routinely beat up his father and mother and dared them to complain. The one who gives birth to the problem-child has no choice; he must carry him.
‘ Chapacholi’s’ parents endured the evil until it became choking, and the mother thought out a scheme. The poor woman went deep into the forest one bright morning to fetch firewood. She went so deep that even she doubted she would be able to find her way back home. Then carefully petting ‘Chapacholi,’ she gave him a choice of food and drinks and asked him to wait under a tree while she foraged the forest for wood and other necessaries. She escaped out of the woods and back home. The child’s father, too, with cautious optimism, celebrated the homestead’s newfound freedom. ‘Chapachoi’ waited and waited and soon realized what the woman he called Mother had done to him.
Wandering in the forest, the evil one met three jolly good fellows: Lion, Ram, and Goat. He begged to be a servant of these friends, promising them peace and life more abundant. They took him in and trusted him with their lives, and they’re all. They soon saw what those who birthed ‘Chapacholi’ saw. They suffered, silently, individually at first. Then the assaults became uniform and shared. Then they thought of what to do. They would abandon their home for the problem guest. They packed all they had into a basket and went to sleep. The escape journey is tomorrow before daybreak, they agreed. But ‘Chapacholi’ heard them. He carefully packed himself into the basket and would torment his victims once again (and forever) just when they thought they had escaped the scourge of the visitor. ‘Chapacholi’ is the reason Lion is in the forest today, and the other two defected out of the woods. He is also the reason the king of the jungle makes meat of his former friends.
Every rescue effort leaves the poor more miserable and the weak weaker. Recently, some ‘Mpigs’ members expelled by their Godfather, and the party told their voters who elected them that they wouldn’t work for them anymore; instead, they will be supporting the agenda of the Burr. The ‘Mpigs’ were audacious enough to declare that their interest was not the poor electors and their former Godfather but their lord and savior – the Imperial Burr who must remain Burr till the end of the time of tenure. Did the poor, hungry, ill, and insulted voters not vote for them? They did! That is how captured people behave.
Does this tell you something about the recent invasion of the ‘Mpigs’ in politics? About the unusual things that have been following that usual action. About cries of plots and counterplots? About old dogs calving old dogs for meat in power abattoirs. About hunters swapping fates with the hunted. About the greedy evil of the past now dining with the saintly glutton of today. About sufferers of the misfortune of lousy governance taking sides in the ongoing friendly match between darkness and darkness? About salvage efforts wasted. About national disaster that won’t just go away.